Press Releases
Unity/Secerssion Dialogue
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Jul 2, 2010 - 10:36:27 PM

Justice Africa

Street 55












This is a proposal for a series of public dialogue events on the question of unity and self-determination in Sudan, and its implications at the national, regional and international levels. It is to be implemented by two African CSOs, InterAfrica Group ( Addis Ababa) and Justice Africa ( Khartoum, Juba, Nyala and London).


Southern Sudan is due to conduct a referendum on self-determination in January 2011. The CPA was signed in 2005 with the intention of “making unity attractive”, an objective which has not been achieved. Hence, under current circumstances, the vote is likely to lead to the separation of the South and the partition of Sudan. This will be an historic and momentous event for Sudan and for Africa. It is possible that this event may also set off a chain reaction of other demands for self-determination across Africa. However there has been remarkably little discourse with Sudan and the region about this event, and still less about its consequences.


The proposal includes the following elements:


  1. A “Sudan-Sudan Dialogue”, consisting of a series of public meetings around the country, about the future of the country and the question of self-determination;
  2. A series of lectures and seminars in South Sudan;
  3. A study of the implications of self-determination for Africa, including the neighbouring countries and the African Union;
  4. An international conference on experiences of self-determination and state partition, and their relevance to the case of Sudan (conducted in partnership with International IDEA);


The anticipated outcome is that a spectrum of Sudanese stakeholders will be better informed and prepared for the possible outcomes of the exercise in self-determination, and better empowered to participate in national dialogue on the issue.



Background to the Issue


The exercise of self-determination by a nationality or the inhabitants of a territory within a state is one of the most significant and potentially traumatic political events that can occur. Exercises in self-determination including secession and state partition have led to major disruptions, including bloodshed and mass population transfers up to an including civil war and acts of genocide. In some cases they have been handled in a relatively consensual and orderly fashion with limited disruption. In some instances the successor states have been politically traumatized and have been unable to progress towards democracy and the rule of law, while in other cases the new states have rapidly and effectively overcome the traumas of division.


The question of unity or partition lies at the heart of the Sudanese national question. It is a polarizing issue, unlocking deep emotions. Sudan is in the midst of parallel and uncompleted transitions, from war to peace, from dictatorship to democracy, and from centralization to decentralization. The transition from international ostracism to normalization has been stalled, as has the transformation from a militarized political economy to a peaceful developmental state. Several of the neighbouring countries are also unstable. There are major unresolved issues between north and south. The potential for a state partition going badly wrong is very real.


Perhaps because it is so potentially traumatic, there has been little organized dialogue within Sudan about the question of unity and self-determination. Sudanese political elites have been preoccupied with other issues including Darfur, elections and the ICC, with the issue of self-determination lurking in the background. Many are in denial about the issue, masking the question under the rubric of “CPA implementation”. For the SPLM it is a default option rather than a central element of the political programme. During the period 1999-2004, there was a series of consultations with civil society, political parties and the Southern Sudanese community on a range of issues relating to the peace process, including the right of self-determination. Since the signing of the CPA, however, the people of Sudan have not carried out discussions among themselves about the implications of unity or separation in the context of the Agreement.


There has been little attention by political scientists and policymakers to the implications of the Southern Sudanese exercise of the right of self-determination. Many in the region, including within Sudan, are in denial about the process and its implications. Little thinking has been done on how best to approach and manage the challenge.


Self-determination including secession and state partition has been a recurrent theme of the politics of the Horn of Africa. The national independence of Sudan in 1956 was in part an exercise of self-determination vis-à-vis a neighbour with designs to establish the unity of the Nile Valley. Subsequently, Southern Sudanese separatism has been an ongoing political current in the country, which will reach its decision point in the referendum scheduled for 2011 under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, in which southerners have the right to vote for unity or secession. Few have any illusions that the majority are separatist. Self-determination was also the dominant theme of Ethiopian politics from the 1960s onwards, with the Eritrean war for national independence and the claims of other groups for the right of self-determination. Eritrea achieved independence in 1993 and the Ethiopian federal constitution of 1995 provides nationalities with the right of self-determination under certain strict conditions. The Somali state was born with an irredentist agenda, demanding that Somali minorities in neighbouring states have the right to secede and join a united Somalia. That agenda brought war to Kenya and Ethiopia and ultimately to Somalia itself, resulting in the breakup of the country including a unilateral declaration of independence by the Republic of Somaliland.


It is vitally important that Sudanese political leaders and others in the region examine the implications of the self-determination process and outcome and prepare accordingly.


It is anticipated that this project will:


  1. Better empower Southern Sudanese citizens to take into consideration the many implications of unity and secession and make informed choices at the time of the referendum
  2. Allow for a spectrum of Sudanese stakeholders to be better prepared for the possible outcomes of the exercise in self-determination.
  3. Help support the Government of Sudan, the Government of Southern Sudan and other Sudanese stakeholders to work towards putting in place the necessary measures to achieve a peaceful referendum and stable post-referendum period.
  4. Contribute towards building confidence between local, national, regional and international stakeholders on the future of Sudan after 2011
  5. Support regional actors to work towards implementing the necessary processes and mechanisms to support stability in the region in view of the 2011 referendum in Sudan.


While the specific activities detailed in this proposal are for the period leading up to the referendum, they will form the basis for continuing engagement with stakeholders and issues after the referendum.

“Sudan-Sudan Dialogue”


This proposal derives from a long-standing civil society demand, articulated since 1999, that Sudanese civil society desperately needs a national forum in which common interests can be articulated, including not only the common interests of citizens and CSOs vis-à-vis the state, but the common interests of Sudanese citizens in the light of historic political decisions that profoundly affect them but which may not be taken with their interests in mind, or with their full participation.


The objective of the exercise is to enable citizen-to-citizen communication to be established in such a way that it can withstand divisive national-level political issues, in order to best support human rights and conflict prevention over the coming years.


The proposed “Sudan-Sudan Dialogue” is a series of public events in all major towns and cities of Sudan, in north and south, to bring together all stakeholders to discuss the major challenges facing the Sudanese nation within the framework of the CPA and the commitments entailed in the Agreement and the Interim National Constitution.


These are envisaged as town-hall style meetings in which representatives of political parties, businesses, faith communities, civil society and other stakeholders consider the key questions of unity or separation. Members of the public will have the opportunity to pose questions to the lead participants.


The Dialogue has been divided into four categories of meetings, to address the different issues constituencies face in the North, in the South, along the North/South border and the considerations of leadership in the capitals (Juba and Khartoum).



All dialogues will be open to the public and will be recorded for transmission on radio, television; web-cast to include the Sudanese Diaspora and other interested parties; and transcribed for publication (online and in print).


Meetings will take place over two days where a first day will be devoted to posing questions to participants in order to focus discussion and thought on the issue; and a second day will allow participants to question lead participants and speakers.


All dialogues will have the following characteristics:

­   Chairs will be respected, independent, civil society figures;

­   Participants will include members of political parties and other stakeholders;

­   Questioners will be drawn from civil society organizations, the media and academics;


The meetings will be widely promoted through media that is accessible (in both Arabic and English) in order to engage Sudanese citizens. 


­   Radio announcements promoting the events will be made regularly, both privately and in conjunction with development organisations supporting radio stations in Sudan. Radio is the best media for information distribution in Sudan as almost all villages have access to radios and it is widely listened to.

­   Online, through partner websites and major Sudanese online newspapers such as the Sudan Tribune ( and the Gurtong Project (  International and local accessing, where available, to such sites is high and as development agencies with which Justice Africa has good relationships support these initiatives, costs will be negligible



The proposed themes for discussion in all dialogues the dialogues are as follows, all of them framed by the CPA and its implementation. Flexibility in the project is essential and built into its design.  Themes for the debates therefore allow for change to accommodate the evolving situation in Sudan. 


  1. What is required to make unity attractive; what is required for peaceable separation;
  2. The implications of separation on other regions in Sudan in particular the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile popular consultations, Darfur and Eastern Sudan;
  3. Citizenship and minority rights;
  4. Peace and security;
  5. Post referendum arrangements in particular political and economic arrangements, and fears for the future
  6. Post-referendum people to people relations


The themes for discussion will be informed by research commissioned on each subject




It is anticipated that attendance per meeting will be in the range of 100-200 participants, drawn from the following key groups:

­   Chiefs and community leaders

­   Women’s groups

­   Youth

­   Notable individuals

­   Local authorities

­   Political parties

­   Academics

­   NGOs and CBOs

­   Other key stakeholders


A formula for representation from the various sectors will be developed to ensure that meetings are as inclusive as possible, as well as minimising tensions through external selection. Communities will be asked to select a quota of representatives according to this formula to the meetings. However participants will not necessarily be limited to / by this formula.


In addition five well networked and influential civil society activists / leaders from the opposite region (Northerners for dialogues in Southern Sudan and Southerners for dialogues in Northern Sudan) will be invited to attend. This allows for cross-regional dialogue, increasing understanding of opposing views and feeding these views into policy and decision making.


Northern States


Meetings will be held for three days, to allow time for a thorough discussion of all the issues, with the following broad agenda:


Day One:         Consultations

Day Two:        Question and Answer Sessions with lead participants

Day Three:      Analysis of Issues facing the region




  1. Yambio           Western Equatoria State
  2. Kapoeta           Eastern Equatoria State
  3. Wau                 Western Bahr el Ghazal State
  4. Warap              Warrap State
  5. Rumbek           Lakes State
  6. Bor                  Jonglei State



North-South Border Communities

Subsequent to the decision of the Abyei Arbitration Tribunal in 2009, Justice Africa convened a consultation involving leaders of the local communities in Abyei and adjoining the district, along with civil society leaders, to reflect upon the decision and its implementation. The major outcome of the meeting was that participants stressed that a deal between national-level political leaders, that did not fully take into account the views and interests of local people, would not provide a solid foundation for lasting peace and good neighbourliness, and that much greater consultation with, and participation of, local stakeholders was essential.


Dialogue among the communities along the North-South internal border on local arrangements subsequent to the exercise of self-determination is essential. There have been relationships of all kinds between these communities since time immemorial, including close cooperation on many issues of common interest such as access to shared natural resources. These traditions need to be built upon and formalized for a potential future era in which an internal boundary becomes an international frontier. There are many models for how to design and handle “soft” or permeable borders, including the case of the Danish-German border. The communities living on either side of, or straddling, what may become an international border, need to be aware of these examples and develop their own ideas and local arrangements in advance of any exercise in self-determination.



These meetings will integrate and focus substantially on border issues, whilst maintaining a general focus on the question of unity and secession; looking at the repercussions of different outcomes for communities and citizens in these border areas and how to maintain peace and stability through earlier arrangements. The meetings will be held over three days with the following agenda:


Day One: Consultations where facilitators will pose specific questions on the various issues

Day Two: Presentations of different models of border managements

Day Three: Analysis and engagement with external stakeholders / lead participants



  1. Rabaq              White Nile State
  2. Abyei              Abyei
  3. Kadugli           Southern Kordofan State
  4. El Obeid          Northern Kordofan State
  5. Nyala               Southern Darfur State
  6. Malakal           Upper Nile State
  7. Bentiu             Unity State
  8. Aweil              Northern Bahr el Ghazal State



As well as the various stakeholders described for general meetings, these ‘border’ meetings will invite 20 participants (10 from either side) from border towns near the state capital. Selection of the participants will focus on key leadership of tribes and communities living in the border areas.


Sessions in Juba and Khartoum

One of the key requirements for a peaceful referendum and stable post referendum period in Sudan, is that both the Governments of Sudan, and Southern Sudan, as well as the international community, consider the key issues, and are able to determine the necessary preparations (both processes and mechanisms) required to put in place.


Therefore a further four sessions will be held in Juba and Khartoum (two in each capital), bringing civil society, political and business communities, government representatives and the regional and international community present in Juba (private and governmental) and Khartoum to discuss the results of meetings in the states.



A first meeting in each capital will be held half-way through the series of meetings around the country. These first meetings will discuss the themes as outlined above, taking into consideration the views of citizens in other dialogue meetings.


The meetings will bring key participants from other dialogue meetings as rapporteurs with the following agenda:


Day One:         Rapporteurs Presentations

                        Group Discussions on key questions and recommendations necessary

Day Two:        Presentation of key questions and recommendations to Government

                        Discussions with government representatives


The outcomes of the Juba / Khartoum meetings will inform the next half of the series dialogue meetings in the state capitals across the North and South.


A second meeting in each capital will be held at the end of the Sudan-Sudan Dialogue, as wrap-up sessions discussing the issues raised throughout the project, following a similar format two day format, as described above.


It is hoped that a further national conference can be held bringing representatives from all Sudan-Sudan Dialogue meetings together to close the dialogue. Due to the large costs involved this has not been budgeted in this proposal.




Lecture and Seminar Series


This activity takes the form of a series of lectures and seminars to be conducted, in which prominent African individuals (scholars and policymakers) and other international figures with relevant experience will come to Sudan to present public lectures and generate discussion.


A steering committee drawn from IAG, Justice Africa, and Sudanese civil society, will identify individuals to be invited. The lectures will be conducted in cooperation with major African academic institutions including a range of universities in Sudan and neighbouring countries, CODESRIA and OSSREA, and international institutions including the SSRC.


Topics for the lectures and seminars will include:


a)      The right of self-determination and state partition;

b)      Nation-building;

c)      National and regional security

d)     Transition from liberation movement to civilian government and party;

e)      Governance;

f)       Human rights.



Each lecturer invited will conduct two events: a larger public lecture and a smaller seminar with government representatives and key stakeholders.




The target audience for the lectures and seminars will include:


­   Parliamentarians;

­   Civil society;

­   Government officials and the military.


The lectures and seminars will be conducted in Juba. Some of the invited individuals will also present lectures in Khartoum.



Study of the Implications of Self-Determination for Africa


The proposed study consists of a panel of eminent scholars and (former) policymakers to examine the implications of the Southern Sudanese exercise in self-determination for Africa. The focus will be on the repercussions for the neighbouring countries, for the African Union, and for other African countries which have comparable problems with minorities or challenges to a common citizenship.

The panel will include three eminent individuals, scholars and (former) policymakers. They will examine the elements of self-determination and state partition, including:


a)      The political and economic interests of neighbouring countries in unity or separation and their likely responses to different scenarios;

b)      Possibilities for conflict or crisis;

c)      Repercussions of the recognition of the right of self-determination for other situations in Africa;

d)     Mechanisms within subregional, regional and international organizations (IGAD, AU, LAS, UN) for responding to the issue, including challenges for the international missions in Sudan;

e)      Experiences of state partition in other parts of the world;

f)       Immediate steps for multilateral organizations;

g)      Options for how to minimize the risks and manage the outcomes.


The panel will present a report, which will be provided to the AU Department for Peace and Security and the AU Peace and Security Council.




International Conference on Experiences of Self-Determination and Partition


A conference is proposed in which specialists present papers on experiences of self determination and state partition from around the world, including the Horn of Africa. Positive experiences and scenarios to be avoided will be presented alike. Legal presentations should be minimized and political issues and practical experiences should be in focus. Lessons need to be learned and applied in good time. The objective of this exercise is to enrich the evidence base on which Sudanese and regional decision-makers can draw, and to stimulate dialogue on the key issues.


The proposed conference will be held in the region, either in Sudan (preferably in Juba) or in Addis Ababa. It will be held in early 2010 in order for there to be sufficient time for Sudanese policymakers to absorb the lessons.


Cases for study include the following:

­   Republic of Ireland;

­   The partition of India and the independence of Bangladesh;

­   The breakup of former Yugoslavia;

­   The breakup of the former Soviet Union;

­   The “velvet divorce” between the Czech Republic and Slovakia;

­   Eritrea and Ethiopia;

­   Somaliland;

­   East Timor.


Cases of non-separation such as Quebec within Canada, Biafra within Nigeria and Katanga within Congo may also warrant attention.


Themes for analysis include the following:


a)      Citizenship rights and minority rights after state partition;

b)      Border demarcation;

c)      State partition within regional political/economic union initiatives (such as the EU or AU);

d)     The dilemmas of political parties which have constituencies on both sides of the new border.

e)      Other key issues:

a.       Currency

b.      Security

c.       Civil Service

d.      Airspace




The conference will be a public event with papers made available. A discreet policymakers’ consultation may be conducted on the sidelines.



Participants will be drawn from Sudanese government officials, political party leadership, civil society as well as government leaders from key neighbouring countries.






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